8 January 2008
Over the bars, Part 2: The demise of the Fuji S-10-S
It was NOT a dark and stormy night, which meant I had no excuses when I rolled through the stop sign at a pretty good clip, smacked the car’s front fender, catapulted over the handlebars, rolled across the hood, and landed in the street …
I found the Fuji S-10-S at a yard sale. The owner wanted $20. I already had a couple of bikes, and it was just a bit small for me, so I left it there.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later that Saturday, I returned to the sale. I think I got the bike for $12. It still had the original Primus frame pump. “I guess it was just waiting for someone who would appreciate it,” the former owner told me as I wheeled the Fuji to the minivan.
I did appreciate it. Later I would find out that this was a historically significant bike — one of the first mass-marketed by the Japanese in the United States during the bike boom of the 1970s. It had a six-speed freewheel. I e-mailed Internet bike guru Sheldon Brown to ask his opinion about whether it was worth fixing up. He thought it was.
I lovingly worked on the bike over the next couple of years, replacing the bottom bracket, trying out new tires, buying a high-rise stem to get the handlebars up to a comfortable height, finding some bar-end shifters in the old-parts bin at a local bike shop, adding a new freewheel and chain, adjusting some brand-new-yet-old-fashioned Dia Compe brake levers … I learned a lot by working on that bike. (The pictures are before the stem and bar-enders.)
After finding three shiny cable guides at a shop in Lincoln, Nebraska, during a fun outing with my dad, the S-10-S finally looked and rode like I wanted it to. And it was a sweet ride. The frame, light and flexible, seemed to work with me as I pedaled.
One Saturday not long after the Fuji was finally dialed in, I took off for work on it. It was a partly cloudy, cool day, a great day for a ride. Then again, they all are.
Since traffic is normally pretty light in my neighborhood in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, I didn’t bother to stop at the stop sign less than two blocks from my house. I picked up speed around a corner and started rolling through the sign to make a left turn. I looked left and looked right.
I looked left again … just in time to see a red sports car that might as well have risen straight up out of the pavement.
My front tire hit the fender. The driver had braked when she saw me, but I had no chance.
Over the bars, and over the car’s hood, I went. I rolled, landing on my left shoulder and smacking my helmet in the middle of the street.
Because traffic was light, I had time to get up and stumble out of the way.
The driver, a woman, was shaken. I tried to calm her down a little. I gave her my name and phone number, in case the car needed to be fixed. (Providentially, I barely scratched it, and she never called.)
Then, ugh, I examined the bike. The front wheel bent like a taco shell. The front fork ends pointed in divergent directions. (As you can see at right, they used to be so pretty!) The killer was, I could see the paint flaking off the top tube and downtube right behind the head tube.
The frame was done for.
I carried the bike home in dismay. The frame hung in the garage for more than a year before I could bear to part with it.
I was sorry to see that Fuji go, but I would have been more sorry if I had not been wearing a helmet.
The helmet cracked when it hit the pavement. That would have been my head.
I dinged my shoulder a little. That was it.
It could have been so much worse, in so many ways.
I’m glad it was the bike, and not me. But I did love that bike. Many of its parts now live on my Bridgestone XO-1.
What did I do wrong?
I rolled through the stop sign when I should have stopped, or at least slowed down.
I was not careful. It was just that simple. I am now.
And while I checked the street to either side of me, I did not check the driveway across the street. That’s where the car came from. I just completely missed it.
Sometimes looking both ways is not enough. I needed to look three ways, and then look again.
Now, I try to do that.
What did I do right? I wore a helmet. This wreck could have resulted in a serious head injury.
Also, I took responsibility for the crash. It was my fault, and I deserved to pay.
I am glad I didn’t have to.
It might seem strange to write about crashes on a site promoting bicycle commuting, but let’s face it, crashes can happen. We riders can do a lot to prevent them. We don’t always do all we can. Here’s how I see it: I have learned a couple of things the hard way. If I tell you about it, maybe you won’t have to. Read about my other crash.